In a matter of weeks many of our Bulldogs will be packing up and leaving the comforts of Morgan County for the first time- all bound for new adventures. Many of our Bulldogs are bound for great things at college. For our star athletes they’ll head to school on scholarships destined for the next level of their beloved sports. We’ve watched them grow and supported them along the way but now it’s time for them to represent us on a larger scale. For me this will be my first time in my life not to go back to school. In May I graduated from the University of Georgia. Although I was not a student athlete I was a college student. I started my college journey at Gainesville State College, which is now University of North Georgia before transferring to UGA. I learned a lot of lessons in my first year about being active and participating. So as our Bulldogs prepare to become a new type of student I thought it would be fun to share some of my experiences and give a couple of words of encouragement to the rising college freshmen. Like I said, I decided to start small going to GSC for my first two… well three years of school. I grew up in Gwinnett and had the dream of going to UGA since I was 12. My goal was to ride on the equestrian team. When I got to GSC I was given some good advice from a professor that would in turn serve as a mentor for my first few years of school. Dan Cabaniss handed me a newspaper as I awaited my compass test. He told me it was important to get involved in some type of organization, without directly telling me to join newspaper. You see GSC was a small commuter school with no dorms.

Students had to live at home or in apartments. The only way to meet people was in class or by getting involved in a school activity. Gainesville also didn’t have any sports teams, but they did have clubs and intramurals. Needless to say I took my teachers advice to the extreme getting involved in Student Government Association and Campus Activities Board. In the winter semester of my freshman year I realized our school had basketball intramurals. I needed a way to stay active and get involved so I signed up. Intramurals is something most colleges and universities have and I highly recommend any student at least try it out. I hadn’t played sports, other than horseback riding, since middle school. I’m short and was told all growing up that I shouldn’t play basketball. They assigned me to a team and it honestly didn’t matter that I didn’t know a whole lot about the sport. My team wasn’t the best of the best but we had fun. I met one of my closest friends through basketball. It was a way for me to stay active while having fun. The other thing that freshman year taught me was to utilize the areas that you live. In my first year I lived in an apartment complex with my best friend from grade school. The college didn’t have a gym on our campus so we used the ones at the apartment. Just because your school may not have a gym, although most do now, there are other places that you can go to stay active. I got lucky because I had a roommate who was a volleyball player in high school and she motivated me to stay active. If we didn’t have time to work out in the gym we would take our dogs for a walk around the apartment.

Although having a pet my first few years of school was probably not the wisest choice it was a fun way to stay active. Years later my dog has been a constant way to keep active. Dog parks in college towns are huge and another good way to meet people that have your same interests. During my last year at GSC I learned another hard lesson that most college students will eventually learn. It was time for me to get my first job; I had a lack of experience and was competing against every other college student in the area. My new roommate, Hannah, worked for an after school program and suggested I apply. After school programs through groups like YMCA and Boys and Girls Club, are great ways to be active while making money and impacting children’s lives. These organizations are in most cities or surrounding towns. There might not be one in your college town but I can almost guarantee that there is one within driving distance of your school. They love college students and are a fun alternative to campus jobs. I chose YWCO, well YWCO chose me and taught me more than most other experiences I had in college. It was a chance to pour into the lives of kids but what I came out with was more than I could have ever expected. At YWCO we lead kids in gym activities and sports games. Counselors were encouraged to participate allowing us to be active as well.

Working for YWCO also came with the benefit of a free membership to their gym and pool. My co-workers and, yes, even I would work out together at the Athens facility. Having someone to hold you accountable is an important part of staying active. Just like study groups work out partners are an important part of college. Talk to one of your friends about getting involved in an intramural or about going to the gym with you on a regular basis. I could sit here and go on and on about college and the ins and outs of it… not that I’m a pro or anything but there are a few things you should know before you go and being active is one of the most important. College is literally the best years of your life, so when people tell you to enjoy it while it lasts listen to them because it will be over before you know it. Be smart, you’re not invincible and we don’t want to hear about you for the wrong reasons. Have fun; be indecisive, try new things, talk to new people but most of all remember where you came from. We’ll be here to welcome you back when you come home on weekends and vacations.